Vocal Warm Up Exercises
By: Aaron Anastasi
Founder: www.HowToSing.com and The Singing Guide
There is no question that vocal warm up exercises are one of the most important practices for the beginner and professional singer alike. In this article you will discover…
- The difference between vocal warm up exercises and advanced exercises
- How to become a better singer without taking vocal lessons
- Two great vocal exercises—one warm up and one advanced
It’s important to understand that there is a difference between vocal warm up exercises—which are designed to help wake your voice up and get it ready to sing, in a way that you don’t strain or damage your vocal folds (cords) while singing—and advanced vocal exercises that will actually help you become a better singer by expanding your range, increasing your ability to sing higher notes and smoothing out the transition between your different registers—getting rid of the annoying, sometimes embarrassing, breaks. Whew! That was a long sentence!
Okay, so there is a difference between two; what does that mean? It means that the best thing to do is start with your vocal warm ups and then move to your more advanced vocal exercises and work through those. You don’t want to jump straight into the advanced ones without warming up first. This could possibly strain or damage your voice, just as much as trying to belt out notes early in the morning before your voice has a chance to wake up and get limber.
The most important thing about voice exercises is that you do them daily. I know, what a pain, right? But this will be the thing that separates you from the average, or below average, singer. Your voice is your instrument, and needs to be tuned daily. Obviously, if you miss a day or two here and there it’s not that big of a deal, but you will find the fastest, most long lasting, improvement when you work these exercises into your regular routine.
In fact, I strongly believe that if you know the right information about the voice and singing and do the right exercises, regularly, you can improve dramatically and continually without having to take lessons.
Let’s talk about the information piece for a second. Singing well is half doing the right vocal warm ups and exercises regularly (and switching that routine up every so often, using a different set of advanced exercises, giving your voice the maximum opportunity to stretch and expand) and half knowledge. Once you understand a handful of the key concepts and have the right warm ups and exercises, you will be in great shape.
Let me give you a couple examples of how a little bit of knowledge of the voice and how it works can help you improve your singing dramatically, immediately.
The position of your body, while singing, makes a huge difference. If you’re sitting down, you’re not going to have access to as much air as if you were standing. Also, if you slouch while singing, the same is true. What happens when your posture isn’t good is that you are physically cutting off some of the space in your lungs for air to inhabit, and it’s next to impossible to engage the diaphragm with slouchy or leaned-over posture. And, as I’m sure you know, having plenty of air, and engaging your diaphragm is the most important part of singing. It will effect pitch, power, tone and range.
While there are tons of examples of a little bit of information going a long way with your singing, let me give you one more little one. For people who are trying to specifically expand their higher range there is a little trick that can help move that along more quickly. When doing the more advanced vocal exercises, instead of using long drawn out notes—for scales or whatever that particular exercise calls for—use short, punchy, staccato notes instead. When singing staccato in short burst, you are generally able to hit higher notes in your range, so using this method will give you a leg up on working that upper range and expanding it more quickly.
All right, let me give you a couple of vocal warm up exercises that you can do to get you started today. The first will be a warm up exercise and the second will be an advanced exercise using the concept that we just talked about, staccato.
For warm ups, especially the first handful that you choose to use in a given sitting (it’s a good idea to do between 5-10 different warm ups followed by 5-10 advanced exercises), closed-mouth warm ups are preferable. And that is simply just as it sounds; you will keep you mouth closed and essentially hum the notes. This way you aren’t requiring too much of your voice before it’s ready, since the result can be strain or damage.
Also, it’s a good idea to start the first note somewhere around the middle of your range and descend a few notes before the bottom of range. This will prevent vocal strain and is part of what I call the 50-20-80 rule. The 50 represents the middle of your range and the 20, not quite to the bottom of your range, so, naturally, the 80 is in your higher range but not quite to the top, which I would call 100. The exercises should start at 50, go to 20 and then you can go up to 80. During warm ups, it’s best to stay in the 20-80 range. Once you’ve done your warm ups, the advanced exercises are the ones that should take you down to 0 and up to 100.
So for your first exercise, I’d like you to start in the middle of your range (what I’m calling 50) and walk drawn out notes in a descending order 5-4-3-2-1. Then start your first note one note lower than your previous starting note, and do it again. Then lower that first note again to descend one more time. After you’ve done that a few times, start back at your first note, toward the middle of your range, and ascend this time 1-2-3-4-5, and instead of steadily decreasing the first note, steadily increase it.
For the advanced exercise I would like you to use staccato sounds, instead of more drawn out notes, and I’d like for you to start in the 70-80 range of your voice, using the ascend pattern 4-5-6-7-8, but once you’ve gotten there descend 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. Climb as high as you can without straining your voice. Continue to push yourself higher and higher as time goes on, and watch your range begin to increase.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful!